- Irish Poetry Publishing Online
Jay David Bolter declared the emergence of computer technology and the World Wide Web at the start of the millennium to be a herald of what was termed the "late age of print." Arguing that tensions between digital and print conventions irrevocably destabilize the traditional understanding of the constitution of a book (3), Bolter concluded that the development of digital technologies facilitates the formation of alternative modes of literary composition, dissemination, and consumption. These evolutions are most often considered to be the foundations of born-digital electronic literature, that which "emerges through a series of translations across machine codes, platforms, and networks; its resulting onscreen content depend[ent] upon algorithmic procedures, software, hardware, and (often) internet compatibility" (Pressman 2). Despite such pronouncements, however, a survey of contemporary Irish poetry publishing suggests that it has yet to witness the death throes of print in any serious way. Although computer technology and the internet have been utilized at least in part by many of the Irish poetry publishers who predate the widespread proliferation of these inventions, these technologies have largely been appropriated to facilitate the continuation of conventional hegemonic publishing practices. A small number of exceptions to this are identifiable in newer publishing ventures, but the various extents to which they embrace the potential of such technologies to radically challenge traditional publishing models of dissemination and consumption are often limited. As a result, the considerable threat posed by online publishing, that is, the provision of new modes of production to expand the conventional understandings of what constitutes poetry and poetic form through the production of born-digital work, remains in its relative infancy and notably underdeveloped in contemporary Irish poetry.
The manner of publishers' engagements with the internet, computer [End Page 321] technologies, and online dissemination practices ranges in the level of technical competency required on the part of the publisher. There are those publishers whose productions are notably limited and dependent entirely on user-friendly interfaces and output formulations, while others produce screen-only creations with sophisticated hardware and software manipulation. At its most basic level the use of social media, where content is posted on independent third-party websites such as Facebook and Twitter, is a feature constant throughout the work of various contemporary Irish poetry publishers. Accessing such social-media sites through laptops, tablets, or smartphones, these publishers may easily promote their output and associated activities, with no cost or technical expertise necessary. All of these publishers also have dedicated websites, though there are notable distinctions between the specific formations of these sites, to be interrogated in greater detail below. Entry-level websites, those produced by traditional print- publishers, function primarily as promotional tools and as marketplaces through which visitors may purchase print texts; more technically innovative publishers utilize these sites to publish and host original poetic texts. On the upper end of the scale of technical competencies, certain publishers produce and host original electronic poetry on their websites and on third-party programs, depending on the specific genre of electronic text. Examples of this category of writing include flash poetry, generative art, code work, interactive fiction, and hypertext fiction, non-Irish samples of which are hosted on the website of the international Electronic Literature Organization at eliterature.org. An analogous organization dedicated to publishing electronic literature from Irish writers does not exist, although there is an isolated Facebook page that refers to itself as the Irish Electronic Literature Community.
Irish poetry has historically been regarded as primarily oral in nature because of its bardic origins and its emphasis on performance, while recent critical and publishing developments have firmly established a culture of print publishing. This dominance has been underlined by its explicit support from contemporary Irish poets with international reputations whose collections are sold across the world. It is in this context that the largest publishers of Irish poetry have embraced the internet and associated technologies with the hope of furthering this reputation and these publishing practices and sales [End Page 322] patterns, leaving notably little room for the emergence of born-digital poetry that may challenge such systems.
Any examination of the presence of Irish poetry publishing online should first...